A funny thing happened on the way to church yesterday. I was torn between attending one of three churches. Each had a unique flavor. I was driving toward one of those churches when a prayer just arose from deep inside me: “Lord, where do you want me to be this morning?” Within a minute my cellphone went off in the car. It was the voice of a friend I’ve known for many years who was in recovery from a family trauma. They began to tell me about where they were in the process of the process. Suddenly, it became clear to me that this was where the Lord was directing me. I met my friend at a local restaurant and we talked and prayed for more than an hour. I believe it was lifegiving for me, my friend and, I might say, for the Spirit of God. I believe it was the Spirit who vectored me toward a time of paying attention to the life of a friend.
A funny thing happened to me on the way to church today: I was becoming the church more than doing church. There was no worship band or light show—no pipe organ or choir—no entertainment of any kind. I was not part of an audience listening to a prepared sermon, but somehow the kingdom and the reality of the Gospel were presented. There is nothing wrong with participating in a religious ritual on Sunday morning. Indeed, we may experience genuine community there as well. But there is little chance of multiplying or growing the body of Christ by participating in ritual alone. Transformation into the heart of Jesus is less likely if we are after ritual and entertainment alone. A farmer may have the very best seed money can buy, but it cannot grow in the barn. Seed must be sown to multiply. If we are to grow the kingdom of God then we have to see beyond the barn. Is the Spirit of God more present in a church facility than at Panera Bread or Starbucks or the local diner? The folks that the Lord wants to reach may be sitting across the table from you rather than in a pew.
We have a small gathering on Friday evenings in which we process through a passage of Scripture and then pray and fellowship together as the need inspires. We may worship with a YouTube or a download of some kind focused on the heart and character of Jesus. Sounds a bit like Acts 2:42. "They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers." These are life-giving times for us all. Participating in the little community leaves me free to consider Sunday morning, or any other time to serve and become an expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (See Matthew 25:34-40) Have we ministered to Jesus as he says in Matthew 25? “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, eventhe leastof them,you did it to Me.” (Matt 25:40) When I sat down at the local diner for a coffee and prayer, I was there with Jesus. When I had a phone conversation with a lonely or discouraged friend it was Jesus on the other end of the phone. When I just sat and listened to a stranger I was listening to Jesus.
What if we set apart time of a few Sunday mornings to go to the local coffee place or café or met someone for breakfast or lunch who needed some encouragement or just a listening ear. I encountered another person at the same restaurant who asked me a deep question about a life issue. I could have likely spend time with them as well. There are many folks hanging out in restaurants on Sunday morning. What if that became our mission field? “Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” James 1:27, Message) A funny thing happened on my way to church yesterday. I became the church to someone. Peace